Israel-Premier Tech stagiaire Riley Sheehan took the biggest victory of his career at Paris-Tours, outsprinting Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ) and Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno-X) from a five-rider group into Tours.
The 23-year-old American reacted first after Joris Delbove (St Michel - Mavic - Auber93) opened up the sprint and powered into front position with Askey closing him down, but the Brit ran out of steam having been solo for a number of kilometres earlier in the day.
Paris-Tours is one of the biggest one-day races on the calendar and has an illustrious history in terms of winners throughout its 117 editions and Sheehan now adds his name to that list in what can only be described as a huge surprise.
Askey led for the majority of the final 50km, slipping away from a small group on one of the gravel sectors that are littered on the Paris-Tours parcours, but he was caught back on the final climb up the Côte de Rochecorbon, and despite sitting on in the final 10 kilometres, wasn’t able to out-kick Sheehan to the line.
It was Askey's teammate Olivier Le Gac that chased him down on the final climb which looked curious, but it was the only way the break would've survived with the peloton only 24 seconds in arrears at the time of his acceleration.
“This is special, this is everything. This could be a big start for me, having a big win like this in a special race is phenomenal. I’m speechless,” said Sheehan. “It was brutal [the finish], I knew at 2km to go that we were just about to make it and I was able to give some wheels away and I was in perfect position."
“When the Auber-Michel guy [Delbove] went I knew that was the perfect wheel to jump off and I didn’t look back after that.”
This is Sheehan's second stint as part of the Israel-Premier Tech setup having ridden for their development programme as an U23 rider and now as a stagiaire, but for the 2024 season, he is set to ride for the Denver Disruptors in the National Cycling League.
Paris-Tours also served as the final race in the long careers of Tony Gallopin and Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën) with the duo retiring after the 213km race. Gallopin crossed the line, clearly emotional with Lidl-Trek teammates by his side after a wonderful career that saw him win a Tour de France stage and wear the yellow jersey.
Van Avermaet closed the curtain on an incredible career with decorated palmares including an Olympic Gold Medal and wins at Paris-Roubaix, the Tour de France and Paris-Tours itself some 12 years ago.
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